ARGENTINA v PARAGUAY – Your guide to the Copa America semi-final

Nicolas Otamendi
Key figure: Nicolas Otamendi

Paraguay’s upset of Brazil in the quarter-finals sets up a clash with tournament favourites Argentina, with whom they shared a 2-2 draw in their opening group clash.

Having qualified for France 1998 and then the next three World Cups that followed, La Albirroja looked to be a burgeoning force on the international stage. Their second-place finish at the last Copa America seemed to underline the point, but they inexplicably fell away following the departure of former manager – and now Argentina’s coach – Gerardo Martino.

Paraguay (odds: 8.60) failed to qualify for the last World Cup and went through three managers until Ramon Diaz was tasked with restoring some pride.

Little was expected of Paraguay coming into this Copa America tournament. Diaz had been in charge for just three games and had not tasted victory. Yet his side showed plenty of character in coming back from 2-0 down to Argentina in the opening game.

Paraguay finally got off the mark with a 1-0 victory against Jamaica before securing a 1-1 draw with Uruguay in their final group game (the draw is available at 4.10).

While they came back from a goal down against Brazil in their quarter-final, they needed penalties to go through. Diaz’s record is therefore one win in seven internationals.

Argentina (1.47) topped the group but also required penalties to see off Colombia in their last-eight clash. It was a shootout that contained some of the best and worst penalties ever seen.

While they have not set the tournament alight yet, they remain unbeaten and their defence, a big question-mark heading into the Copa, has answered every call.

The central defensive partnership of Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi – who has both Manchester City and Manchester United on alert, as he is set to leave Valencia this summer – have been solid. The biggest issue may be with the full-backs. Pablo Zabaleta, while useful going forward, often gets caught out of position and Manchester United’s Marcus Rojo, who missed a penalty in Argentina’s shootout with Colombia, has struggled for both club and country.

Yet their attacking prowess is well documented. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain pose Martino a headache: how does he involve them all and play them in their best positions? The dynamic is an awkward one.


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Tevez, when he can get into the side, is playing a position far deeper than where he is most effective, and the only certainties on the team-sheet are Messi and Javier Mascherano, who is the glue in the central midfield that allows the creative players to do their thing.

Paraguay don’t have a great pedigree but they do play with heart. While they may have it within them to topple Argentina, their record against La Albiceleste is not a good one. In 104 meetings between the two sides, the Paraguayans have tasted victory on just 15 occasions, suffering 58 defeats.

We see this as being Argentina’s coming-out party, even though Paraguay will stack plenty of bodies behind the ball. An early goal will settle the favourites and will open the game up.

VERDICT: ARGENTINA 3 PARAGUAY 1 @ 14.50

BEST BET: PARAGUAY TO SCORE @ 2.10

MYCLUBBETTING.COM has teamed up with Premier Sports to become the Official Broadcast Sponsors for the biggest football tournament of the year, the 2015 Copa América.

Don’t forget to place your pre-match and live, in-running bets via copa.myclubbetting.co.uk and watch the 26 matches, broadcast live throughout the UK via Premier Sports, on SKY channel 428, Virgin 551, TalkTalk 526 and in HD via the Premier Player online.

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CHILE v PERU – Your Copa America guide to the semi-final

Paolo Guerro1
Danger-man: Paolo Guerro

Chile are on the brink of creating a little history. They have never won the Copa America tournament and Mauricio Isla’s winner against nine-man Uruguay has put the hosts on the brink of reaching their fifth final since 1916 and their first since 1987.

Peru defeated Bolivia 3-1 on the back of a Paulo Guerrero hat-trick in their quarter-final. In truth, Bolivia were poor and naïve defending allowed Peru to be out of sight before half-time.

While Peru could only beat what was put in front of them, Chile (odds: 1.50) are heavy favourites – perhaps too heavy.

Bettors must be wary of the defensive frailties of Joge Sampaoli’s side.

They have an excellent goalkeeper in Claudio Bravo, who is arguably the best that South America has to offer between the sticks.

Yet Mainz defender Gonzalo Jara will be missing. He is set to serve a suspension and may well be offloaded by his German club after television pictures showed the 29-year-old prodding Edinson Cavani’s bottom before falling theatrically to the floor in their quarter-final win.

Yet the way Peru (8.00) unlocked Bolivia is also cause for concern. They peppered the Bolivians with a series of pinpoint crosses and Guerrero got on the end of a couple of them.

The worrying thing, as far as Chile backers are concerned, is the size of Peru’s forwards: Guerrero and Claudio Pizarro dwarf Gary Medel, and their centre halves are not the quickest.

A pressing game from the Chilean full-backs will be required if they are to diminish the excellent use of the flanks from Jefferson Fafan, Juan Manuel Vargas, Christian Cuevas and Luis Advincula.

Take a look at 5 top goals from the Group phase

On the flip side, Uruguay’s strength was their defensive capabilities and that did not deter Chile from having an 80% possession advantage over the Copa holders in the quarter-final.

Chile eventually got the breakthrough after 82 minutes to settle a tense affair which saw both Cavani and Jorge Fucile dismissed at the Estado Nacional in Santiago.

While Chile have scored 11 goals in four games, Peru netted twice in their opening three group games before Guerrero’s hat-trick against Bolivia (who were thumped 5-0 by Chile in the final group game).

Chile have the advantage of beating Peru on 10 of the last 15 occasions (losing four times and drawing the other). There are usually a few goals scored when these two meet: No less than 11 of those 15 games saw three or more goals in total and it is 2.18 for more than 2.5 goals to be scored.

The weight of expectation weighed heavy on Brazil when they hosted a World Cup semi-final against Germany and bettors must decide if this will be the case for Chile.

An early goal will not doubt settle the hosts, who could cruise thereafter. We see Peru causing a few problems though, and it may take extra time to settle it before Chile go through.

VERDICT: CHILE 2 PERU 2 @ 23.00

BEST BET: PERU TO SCORE @ 1.99

MYCLUBBETTING.COM has teamed up with Premier Sports to become the Official Broadcast Sponsors for the biggest football tournament of the year, the 2015 Copa América.

Don’t forget to place your pre-match and live, in-running bets via copa.myclubbetting.co.uk and watch the 26 matches, broadcast live throughout the UK via Premier Sports, on SKY channel 428, Virgin 551, TalkTalk 526 and in HD via the Premier Player online.

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Colombian penalties provide the anti-Tekkers at Copa America

Carlos Tevez1
Spot on: Carlos Tevez

It was a tale of two quarter-final penalty shoot-outs, which now leave heavy favourites facing outsiders in both semi-finals of the Copa America.

Argentina, the 14-times Copa champions, went through on penalties against Colombia after their clash ended 0-0 in 90 minutes at the Estadio Sausalito.

Carlos Tevez scored the deciding spot-kick in sudden-death, which was notable for some truly horrible attempts counterbalanced by some of the best pens you will ever see.

In the final last-eight clash, Brazil were held 1-1 by Paraguay (advised in our preview as a Correct Score bet at odds of 6.40), who then repeated their 2011 Copa America penalty shoot-out win over the Selecao.

Manchester City striker Robinho gave Brazil a 15th-minute lead from a Dani Alves cross, before Thiago Silva’s second-half hand-ball allowed Derlis Gonzalez to level from the spot.


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Paraguay, who last won the tournament in 1979, went on to win 4-3 on penalties and now face Argentina in Conception early on Wednesday morning, while hosts Chile face Peru in the other semi-final on Tuesday morning.

MYCLUBBETTING.COM has teamed up with Premier Sports to become the Official Broadcast Sponsors for the biggest football tournament of the year, the 2015 Copa América.

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BRAZIL v PARAGUAY – Your Copa America guide to the quarter-final

It was hard graft, but Brazil topped Group C as expected. Yet the underlying feeling is one of disappointment.

The Selecao have really not produced the goods and much of the blame is being levelled at coach Dunga.

Many perceive the former defender’s tactics to be negative, yet it is hardly surprising that they have been lacking in confidence since that 7-1 World Cup semi-final drubbing by Germany.

Their confidence has taken another battering thanks to Neymar’s suspension.

Brazil’s top player is banned for the remainder of the tournament, courtesy of being sent off after petulantly kicking the ball at Colombia’s Pablo Amero when the referee had blown the final whistle in their 1-0 defeat.

The Barcelona forward’s premature departure means Brazil (odds: 1.69) have a tough road to reach the final of the Copa America final and win it for the fifth time since 1989.


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Without Neymar, Brazil registered more shots in their final group game against Venezuela (17) than they did in their two previous group games. Yet they are obviously a better outfit with him than without.

Brazil also appear to have a problem defensively, despite the way Dunga has set his side up. They conceded against Peru, Colombia and Venezuela in the group phase.

He is being overly cautious and Brazil ended with four centre backs on the pitch against the mighty Venezuela.

Ramon Diaz’s Paraguay, runners-up four years ago, will be no pushovers. They are one of three remaining unbeaten sides in the tournament, with three of their strikers already having registered: Lucas Barrios (twice), Nelson Valdez and Edgar Benitez.

They also knocked out Brazil via penalties in the 2011 edition and pose a live threat, particularly from set pieces.

Diaz was supposedly using the Copa to introduce new players and results were not the primary focus. This was expected to be a rebuild, yet they battled back from 2-0 down against Argentina to claim a draw. Diaz was given plenty of answers to any lingering questions over character within the side.

Paraguay (6.00) followed up with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica, before ending the group phase with a 1-1 draw with Uruguay. A Brazil/Paraguay draw is available at 3.40.

Roberto Firmino
Kop of the world: Firmino

While a regular in the quarter-finals – they have reached this stage in seven of the last eight Copas – they have only once managed to go beyond that stage.

With Neymar absent, it is anticipated that Liverpool’s new £29m signing Roberto Firmino will keep his place in the Brazil side as the main striker, with Diego Tardelli likely on the bench.

While there are plenty of reasons to think that there will be a shock in the quarter-finals, Paraguay are not likely to provide it.

While Brazil created plenty of chances against Venezuela, they failed to take enough of them. Paraguay are a well-organised outfit and it may well need extra time to settle it.

VERDICT: BRAZIL 1 PARAGUAY 1 @ 6.40

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 2.22

MYCLUBBETTING.COM has teamed up with Premier Sports to become the Official Broadcast Sponsors for the biggest football tournament of the year, the 2015 Copa América.

Don’t forget to place your pre-match and live, in-running bets via copa.myclubbetting.co.uk and watch the 26 matches, broadcast live throughout the UK via Premier Sports, on SKY channel 428, Virgin 551, TalkTalk 526 and in HD via the Premier Player online.

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ARGENTINA v COLOMBIA – Your Copa America guide to the quarter-final

Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain: Big threat to Colombia

This game in Vina Del Mar on Friday is the one that both would have wanted to avoid so soon in Copa America.

Many had them pegged as finalists. After all, they are ranked higher by FIFA than Brazil (Argentina are ranked third, Colombia fourth and Brazil fifth).

It has not quite clicked for Argentina (odds: 1.86) at this Copa America. The favourites to win it all recorded a draw with Paraguay, followed by two laboured 1-0 wins against Uruguay and Jamaica respectively.

They topped the group with seven points and are unbeaten, the worries about their ropey defence before the start of the tournament have been masked by the problems up front.

Their three games have included two clean sheets but coach Gerardo Martino has come under fire for perceived lack of flexibility. They have managed a total of just four goals in games against Uruguay, Paraguay and Jamaica. With all due respect to those sides, the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria should be creating more than they have don thus far.

Traditionally, La Albiceleste invariably start slowly at major tournaments and come on strong. That could well be the pattern again. Defensive uncertainties aside (they were rudely awakened when Paraguay came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the opener), Argentina have won eight and drawn one of their last 11 internationals since losing to Germany in the World Cup final.


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The incentive is obvious: they are without a major title since 1993, but will likely have to go through Brazil in the semi-final, should the Selecao come through their last eight clash with Paraguay, and there is the prospect of host nation Chile waiting in the final. That is a tough road.

Messi, Tevez and company now face a young Colombia (4.90) side who, whilst losing to Venezuela, have beaten Brazil and are certainly capable of raising their game.

Jose Pekerman’s Colombia lit up the last World Cup, creating numerous chances with their free-flowing, pacy football. Yet James Rodriguez and Los Cafeteros have struggled mightily to find the net.

James Rodriguez
Colombia key: James Rodriguez

They have limped into the last eight, having scored one goal in three games – and that was enough to beat Brazil and gain the three points to take them through.

Colombia’s problems centre on Radamel Falcao, who has continued his poor form that convinced Manchester United manager Luis Van Gaal to abandon thoughts of a permanent move.

The 29-year-old has attracted the attention of Chelsea – perhaps it appeals to Jose Mourinho’s ego to turn Falcao’s form around where Van Gaal has failed – but many Colombia fans want to see him dropped in favour of Jackson Martinez.

One thing to look for is a lack of discipline. In the 18 group games, at least four cards were issued in 13 of those games – and you can invariably bank on a few cards when Argentina and Colombia meet.

Their last six clashes have produced a total of 31 yellow and four red cards (an average of five yellows and a red per game).

Since they were crowned Copa America champions in 2001, Colombia have failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals and while Martinez and Carlos Bacca will pose a threat, Argentina look worthy favourites.

They also have a decent record against Colombia, winning seven and drawing three of the last 12 meetings. The draw is on offer at 3.20, but Argentina are a viable price to continue their good run.

VERDICT: ARGENTINA 2 COLOMBIA 0 @ 7.20

BEST BET: COLOMBIA FIRST YELLOW CARD @ 1.73

MYCLUBBETTING.COM has teamed up with Premier Sports to become the Official Broadcast Sponsors for the biggest football tournament of the year, the 2015 Copa América.

Don’t forget to place your pre-match and live, in-running bets via copa.myclubbetting.co.uk and watch the 26 matches, broadcast live throughout the UK via Premier Sports, on SKY channel 428, Virgin 551, TalkTalk 526 and in HD via the Premier Player online.

You must be 18+ to place a bet. Please bet responsibly.www.gambleaware.co.uk

BOLIVIA v PERU – Your Copa America guide to the quarter-final

Claudio Pizzaro
Bolivia’s bogeyman: Claudio Pizrro

The least anticipated of the four quarter-finals could perhaps turn out to be the most tactical.

Bolivia (odds: 5.00) have qualified as big underdogs from a group that contained hosts Chile, Ecuador and Mexico. Their second-placed finish, courtesy of a win against Ecuador and a draw against Mexico, gives Mauricio Soria’s side the chance to reach the Copa America final for the first time since they hosted the tournament in 1997.

They had not won a game in the tournament since, until their surprise 3-2 victory over Ecuador last week. Indeed, they had not won a competitive fixture away from the high altitude of La Paz in over 20 years.

Bolivia were thumped 5-0 by Chile in their last group game, looking every inch the tournament minnows, and they are rightly heavy underdogs for the clash with Peru in the southern Chilean city of Temuco on Thursday.

Yet Soria decided to ring the changes against Chile, knowing that they had booked their ticket for the quarter-finals. So while Chile ran riot, anything other than an emphatic success would have been a disappointment to the home nation and a bonus to the Bolivians.


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Peru (1.87) also finished as runners-up from a group that included Brazil and Colombia. That was no mean feat. They outplayed Brazil at times in their opening game before falling to a last-gasp Douglas Costa strike. They gained their sole victory thanks to the only goal of the game against Venezuela, scored by ex-Chelsea man Claudio Pizarro, before going through with Colombia after they played out a goalless draw.

While they have managed just two goals in three games, they will fancy their chances of making the last four, just as they did four years ago in Argentina. Although they lost to eventual champions Uruguay, they ended their tournament on a positive note, beating Venezuela 4-1 in the third-place playoff.

Peru have the advantage of experience, having reached the knockout stage in seven of the last eight Copas. They also have the benefit of long-term historic success against the Bolivians, but in recent years they have largely cancelled each other out; there have been seven draws in the last 16 meetings (including the last four), with Peru winning four times in that span since July 1997.

Soria will revert to his strongest side after the Santiago drubbing, with Miguel Hurtado, Danny Bejarano, Damian Lizio and Edward Zenteno all expected to be recalled to the starting line-up.

Peru will stick with Bayern Munich striker Paolo Guerrero, who was Peru’s leading scorer at the 2011 Copa America with five goals. He has yet to break his duck at this competition and has not scored for his country since November.

Schalke 04 winger Jefferson Farfan is likely to be confined to the bench, despite his ability to add a little pace and power to the attack, as Peru stick with experienced 36-year-old hitman Claudio Pizarro, who has scored four of his 18 international goals against Bolivia.

Peru are rightly favourites and while this could easily go to extra time and beyond – the draw is 3.15 – we feel they will get through. The first goal could be all-important.

VERDICT: BOLIVIA 0 PERU 1 @ 5.10

BEST BET: PERU SCORE FIRST IN SECOND HALF @ 2.04

MYCLUBBETTING.COM has teamed up with Premier Sports to become the Official Broadcast Sponsors for the biggest football tournament of the year, the 2015 Copa América.

Don’t forget to place your pre-match and live, in-running bets via copa.myclubbetting.co.uk and watch the 26 matches, broadcast live throughout the UK via Premier Sports, on SKY channel 428, Virgin 551, TalkTalk 526 and in HD via the Premier Player online.

You must be 18+ to place a bet. Please bet responsibly.www.gambleaware.co.uk

Copa America – Vote for your top goal from the Group stage

We have come up with five top goals from the Group Stage of the Copa America.
We could have chosen others, such as Thiago Silva’s volley against Venezuela (but in all honesty, you and I blast them home like that every Sunday morning!).

Thiago Silva
Great goal: Thiago Silva

So take your pick of the top strike from the following five and see if you agree with us.
Oh, and don’t forget, you can win a signed and framed Sergio Aguero shirt this week – simply head over to Twitter and find @myclubbetting for details.